June 2022: Special times call for special measures
Met police plagued with scandal after scandal after scandal after scandal after scandal after scandal after scandal after scandal after scandal after scandal after scandal after scandal after scand...
Congratulations for getting through another month in which police forces demonstrate a level of brutality and incompetence that can only be described as systemic. And with yet more stop and search powers passing through parliament relating to so-called public order, we’re trying to keep up in our efforts to spread the word about individuals’ rights during police encounters and in ways of dealing with the aftermath of interactions with the police.
Our girls and women group presented the latest findings of their stop and search research at parliament alongside Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP (please read our blogpost depicting the event).
We are looking for more project participants, so please come visit us at Waltham Forest Town Hall on Thursday 07 July if you are keen.
For those who might interested in helping out in other ways, our regular volunteer meetings will also begin again soon (Wednesday 06 July). You can sign up via our Eventbrite.
This month’s stories include:
Politicians play the blame game as Met is placed in a form of special measures
And in Terrible tech, facial recognition is coming to a force near you. Can you see it yet?
Please enjoy our roundup of stories below.
Met gets a written warning
On the first day of June, the Home Office released a dataset tallying the levels of police misconduct in England and Wales under the new and improved disciplinary system (Guardian, 01 Jun).
And if you didn’t know any better, you’d think police conduct was almost faultless: of the cases recorded by our 43 territorial police forces in the year ending 31 March 2021 that were deemed to require investigation of police officers, there were 14,393 public complaints, of which no action was taken in 92% of them, and only 1% were referred to proceedings. The people doth protest too much.
However, when anecdotal evidence suggests that people refrain from seeking justice for officers’ wrongdoing – partly because forces mark their own homework – we doubt the numbers are a true reflection of individuals’ grievances against police misconduct.
The public would rightly become suspicious of their police force if the same mistakes were made a little too frequently for them to ignore. Like strip searching a prominent anti-knife crime campaigner for no reason (WHOA TV, 19 Jun).
Or the drip feeding of ever more stories of Met officers strip searching children in ways that leave the IOPC with no choice but to investigate.
Or the fact that a police investigation into the recent death of Oladeji Adeyemi Omishore at Chelsea Bridge found he was not holding a screwdriver after all – not that a screwdriver warrants repeated electrocutions (Voice Online, 21 Jun).
For ages, the mere suggestion that something is systemically rotten with the force has often been dismissed in mainstream discourse. But for an ever greater cross-section of Londoners who have experienced the wrong end of officers’ conduct, the realisation is dawning that the problems with the Met run deep.
By the end of June, the police’s justice inspectorate came to the (unavoidable) conclusion that the Met should be placed into an advanced stage of monitoring, something akin to special measures.
Relaying details of HMICFRS’s letter, one journalist cited the finding that in 25% of stop and search cases, the grounds for the search were not recorded ‘in sufficient detail to enable an independent judgment to be made as to whether reasonable grounds existed’, and that 69,000 crimes go unrecorded each year (make what you will of the latter figure; it was 95,000 when the Met was rated ‘good’ in 2018).
The fallout from the announcement made the headlines, with political figures blaming each other for the state of the Met as though they’d never given their full support to them (Evening Standard, 30 Jun). The Mayor of London, who oversees the force, had made a passionate speech calling for a ‘reforming commissioner’ in order to regain the trust and confidence of the capital’s communities (London City Hall, 17 Jun), but it was only 9 months ago that Sadiq Khan granted the now former Met commissioner a 2-year extension.
And at the Home Office, home secretary Priti Patel and policing minister Kit ‘Tag Me’ Malthouse may well ‘expect the police to get the basics right’ and blame Khan for failing to make that happen, but one wonders how much responsibility they will shoulder for passing legislation that has had less impact on crime rates than a pandemic and is focused on the police using their time and expanded powers to arrest people for being a bit loud.
While that unedifying spectacle plays out, the public will continue to bear the brunt of a force that has been backed by politicians of both major parties on every occasion that it has been called out by groups like ours. But they can’t say they weren’t warned.
Deaths in custody
Leroy Junior Medford
Thames Valley police have apologised to the family of a man who died in custody after ingesting heroin in his cell more than 5 years ago (Guardian, 15 Jun).
Leroy Junior Medford – known to family and friends as Junior – died on 2 April 2017 at Loddon Valley police station in Reading, more than 15 hours after being arrested on suspicion of assault.
Thames Valley police have admitted breaching article 2 of the European convention on human rights (the right to life) by failing to take reasonable steps to try to prevent Medford’s death when there was a real and immediate risk to his life.
The force’s deputy chief constable, Jason Hogg, apologised to the Medford family ‘for that breach and the grief and distress that this has caused Junior’s children and siblings’, admitting that his death was ‘tragic and avoidable’.
Other policing stories*
How many more Child Qs? 4 Metropolitan police officers have each been served with gross misconduct notices in relation to the strip search of the 15-year-old Black schoolgirl (Independent, 15 Jun).
A further 8 referrals involving strip searches of children have also been made to police watchdog the Independent Office for Police Conduct. The voluntary referrals relate to separate incidents between December 2019 and March 2022, where children aged 14 to 17 years were strip-searched by officers in custody or subject to ‘more intimate searches outside custody’, according to the Met (Independent, 25 Jun).
MPs have called for a review into the policing of Black children in particular, along with better data collection about those who are strip-searched and a reduction in the time minors are kept in detention. (openDemocracy, 28 Jun).
Bobbies on the beat: The number of police communications officers often ‘rivals or outweighs’ the number of local news reporters in some UK regions, according to a major study into news deserts published by the Charitable Journalism Project (Press Gazette, 17 Jun).
Spycops costs: The home affairs select committee have raised concerns with a top Home Office civil servant over the costs of the spycops scandal inquiry (COPS, 27 Jun).
At a parliamentary hearing, Permanent Secretary to the Home Office Matthew Rycroft CBE, told the committee that the inquiry ‘must get on with it’ and, although it is operationally independent of the Home Office, the fact that the department fund it means there is always the possibility that the home secretary could pull the plug.
According to the COPS website, the ‘gruelling extended delays have been largely down to the Met’s wilful stalling tactics, and the inquiry indulging that strategy’.
Police catch a case of mistaken identity: The mother of a 14-year-old Black boy who was thrown to the floor and handcuffed by a group of police officers on his way home from school in a case of mistaken identity feared her asthmatic son would be the next George Floyd (ITV News, 24 Jun).
De-shaun Joseph was stopped by police in south London on Thursday after officers said he ‘matched’ the description of a suspect in a nearby robbery.
As officers restrained the child, with one kneeling on his legs and another holding his hands behind his back, concerned passersby stopped to film the incident and question the police's treatment. De-shaun, who suffers from asthma, shouted out his mother’s phone number to a woman watching the incident, She then called his mother, who ran to the scene.
Officers later released him without arrest, after admitting he was the wrong person.
Protection not persecution: A Black teenager who claims he has been treated as a gang member by police rather than as a victim of county lines grooming is bringing what is thought to be the first complaint of its kind against the Metropolitan police for failing to protect him (Guardian, 20 Jun).
The 19-year-old is in hiding from the gang he says kidnapped him and tried to force him to get involved in committing crimes for them.
He says that even before he was exploited by the county lines gang he was a victim of racist stereotyping by the Met because of his ethnicity and that he was falsely accused of being involved in various crimes in which he was later found to have had no involvement.
The legal complaint claims that police failed in their duty to protect and safeguard him, failed to treat him as a victim and racially stereotyped him. He has accused the police of breaching the Equality Act and the Human Rights Act.
Attiq Malik of Liberty Law Solicitors, who is representing the complainant against the Met, said: ‘It is extremely concerning that children who are victims of grooming and modern slavery consistently fail to receive the support and attention that is required for them from public authorities such as the police and are instead categorised and treated as gang members simply because of narratives and stereotypes associated with their race.’
Officers lied about car stop? Police officers lied in statements to justify Tasering a Black social worker who was posing no threat, the high court has been told (Guardian, 29 Jun).
Edwin Afriyie was driving friends back from a party in April 2018 when he was pulled over by officers who told him they believed he was speeding. He was never prosecuted for this.
He was breathalysed and arrested after the machine repeatedly failed to register a result. He was then asked to put his hands behind his back to be handcuffed, but pulled his arms away, saying he had been told to stop blowing into the device.
While standing apart from officers and discussing events with his friend, Afriyie was Tasered in the chest, fell backwards and hit his head on a stone window ledge. Medical reports suggest he briefly lost consciousness. The officers at the scene claimed in written statements that he was ‘steeling himself to attack officers’ and had adopted a ‘fighting stance’.
Afriyie is suing the force for assault/battery and misfeasance in public office. City of London police has denied liability, claiming its use of force was ‘necessary and reasonable’ and that he did not lose consciousness.
* Selection from the Institute of Race Relations Register of Racism and Resistance. Click on the logo below to access the full repository of stories
Section 60 watch*
Crystal Palace (17 Jun), Ealing (17 Jun), Islington (10 Jun), Hillingdon (17 Jun), Hounslow (21 Jun)
Stevenage (11 Jun)
Ipswich (03 Jun)
Appleby (11 Jun)
* This is not a comprehensive list
Terrible tech: It’s inevitable, let’s face it
The rollout of facial recognition continues as Cheshire police force announces its decision to adopt it as part of their efforts to identify offenders.
Assistant chief constable Matt Welsted told the BBC that it will help modernise the force, hailing the so-called smart tool as ‘the latest capability’ provided to officers to ‘improve our response in achieving justice more efficiently’ (BBC News, 16 Jun).
It might be terribly dated before long though, because soon cops will be able to scan your fingerprints with a phone (WIRED UK, 17 Jun).
So-called contactless fingerprinting technology uses your phone’s camera and image processing algorithms to capture people’s fingerprints. Hold your hand in front of the camera lens and the software can identify and record all the lines and swirls on your fingertips. The technology, which has been in development for years, is ready to be more widely used in the real world.
And of course law enforcement agencies have expressed an interest in it.
These are but a couple of the many biometric markers that have very little legal regulation justifying or limiting their continued use, and ought to be underpinned by a more robust legal framework, according to a review from Matthew Ryder QC, commissioned by the Ada Lovelace Institute.
Ryder argues that the current legal regime is ‘fragmented, confused and failing to keep pace with technological advances’ and that ‘we urgently need an ambitious new legislative framework specific to biometrics’ (BBC News Technology, 29 Jun).
The review calls for changes including:
comprehensive legislation governing the use of biometric technologies.
oversight by a national, independent and properly resourced regulatory body.
a requirement for technology to meet standards of accuracy, reliability and validity and proportionality
a moratorium on systems capable of mass identification or classification in the public sector until legislation is passed
a legally binding police code of practice governing live facial recognition use
The government could do worse than to heed these calls. If (police) access to our biometric data is so important as to become an inevitability in public life, then we are owed a legislative framework that protects our data from potential abuses by forces.
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